Paleo pregnancy lessons

by Kim on November 14, 2013

I don’t always run, but when I do, it’s for stress relief.

Last night I needed it big time. It was just one of those days. Mason took an impossibly short nap at daycare and was a little touchy (to put it very lightly) by the time we got him home, and then dinner took way too long to prepare (way too long=any amount of time whatsoever when you’re starving after work). Small grievances that add up to something big.

Then, when I got on the treadmill and flipped on the TV, I discovered a bonus stress-reliever: CHRISTMAS MOVIES.

I watched about 15 minutes of one during my run, and it was so cheesy and so predictable and so perfect. I love you, Hallmark—never change.

Anyway. I’m feeling much better today. And what I’m actually here today to talk about is Paleo.

I’m sure many of you have heard of Balanced Bites, a Paleo lifestyle podcast by Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe (of Cave Girl Eats).

BB

I’ve been listening to BB a lot lately, since I first downloaded a bunch of fitness podcasts for my daily commute (seriously, the commute is one of my favorite parts of the day now, just because of that). And it’s been great—Liz and Diane are entertaining, if a little all-over-the-place, and they seem to really know their stuff.

One problem: listening to this podcast makes me feel like a 4th grader walking into a grad school lecture. There is so much information that’s new to me, or that I don’t have a firm opinion on yet, that it makes me feel completely out of my element.

I don’t pretend to know everything about nutrition (far from it), but I like to think that I know the basics, and I at least thought I knew where I stood on most of the trends and “lifestyles” out there right now.

But, man. Paleo is really throwing me.

It’s not that I don’t understand the general concepts of Paleo, or that I ever doubted its healthiness. Eating real food, going heavy on protein, going light on grains (or skipping grains), cutting out processed junk, caring about where your food comes from—sure, that’s all good stuff. I’m behind it 100%.

It’s all the other details of Paleo that I feel totally uninformed about. The cod liver oil, organ meat, bone broth, fermented foods…aka “traditional foods” or “things that sound totally disgusting.” Super crunchy stuff that’s way out of my league right now.

And to be honest, I’m just not sure how I feel about all the red meat and fat.

Even if I don’t ever actually follow Paleo myself, I want to at least be informed about it, to be able to talk knowledgeably and to form my own opinion about it.

Plus, I can’t help feeling that I might be missing out on some awesome nutrition and perfectly attainable great health just because I just don’t know enough about it.

Yes, I feel pretty healthy right now, doing what I’m doing (aka not a Paleo Perfect lifestyle). But as many of you know, when you’re interested in health, to the point where you obsessively seek out and consume information about it, healthy is no longer good enough. At that point, you’re after healthiest.

(I mean, even if you’re not into health, I’m guessing you feel the same way about the things you’re interested in.)

Anyway. The BB episode that threw me for the biggest loop was probably this one, in which Liz interviews author/blogger Arsy Vartanian about Paleo and pregnancy.

First of all, you have to check out Arsy’s blog—it’s really cute, and she’s really cute, and her daughter’s really cute, and I really want to buy her cookbook, which is entirely devoted to SLOW COOKER MEALS (aka my latest obsession).

Rubies and Radishes

(And yes, I realize that was way too many really’s in one sentence.)

So, the podcast was all about what Arsy did while she was pregnant, and how she feels her diet is largely responsible for the super healthy, mellow, non-picky (liver-loving) daughter she has now. (I’m not sure how I feel about the mellow thing…I can’t help but wonder if she’d be saying the same thing if she’d had a boy!)

She talked about eating all the “traditional” foods, along with lots of meat, eggs (especially yolks), and raw milk (which most OBs would shudder to hear). She talked about consuming bone broth and cod liver oil every day like that was the most obvious thing in the world to do.

And I was left thinking: Oh. No.

Now I have to research the crap out of this, and start reading new blogs, and try making new things, and basically try to wrap my head around all this new information in order to figure out Where I Stand.

Kim-1060 edit

(Random picture break, because this post needs some pictures. This is another one from that fitness photo shoot.)

Why all the obsessive knowledge hunger?

Well…I’m hesitant to even tell you. I know some people are going to think I sound totally ridiculous.

But this is something that weighs heavily on my heart and mind—as much as I wish it didn’t—and this blog is nothing if not a place for me to unload.

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that my son has multiple severe food allergies (10 and counting). For better or for worse, I’ve spent the last year since he was diagnosed wondering:

Was it something I did or didn’t do while pregnant? (Not in a guilty, woe is me, it’s-all-my-fault way, but in a genuinely curious “could I have done something better?” way.)

Is there something I could do to help him get rid of the allergies? (I’ve researched the crap out of this and have some theories about it. I don’t expect miracles, but I don’t thing it’s completely out of the question either…)

I’m also starting to think about about what I’d like to do differently with my next pregnancy (God willing that there is one). How “natural” should I go? Which nutrients are most important for baby’s development? What (if anything) can I do to optimize our chances of avoiding this allergy thing with future kids?

So that’s where I’m at right now.

Not quite ready to cook up a big hunk of liver for dinner tonight, but definitely interested in doing some more exploring on this and trying to figure out how it jives with my beliefs and my body’s metabolic tendencies.

The learning never ends, right?

Actually—side note—I was listening to a Jillian Michaels podcast the other day, and she was talking about how she felt like she’d “hit a wall with fitness and nutrition stuff.” Like, she’d learned everything she could possibly learn and couldn’t fathom anyone coming out with anything new or exciting, possibly ever again.

I can’t decide if that’s a blissful place to be, and something I aspire to, or a total fallacy. What do you think?

Is it possible to learn everything there is to know about health and fitness?

Do you eat any “traditional” (ie more obscure) Paleo foods?

Thoughts on Paleo in general?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Amie November 21, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Hi there! I just came across your blog and absolutely love it! I actually listened to this podcast while back and found it so so interesting! I love paleo, and I know there are a lot of mixed opinions out there, but it has done WONDERS for my health, allergies, hormones, you name it. I am not currently pregnant, but I am starting to try to add in more ‘traditional’ foods for the health benefits. And I can’t believe Jillian michaels said that! I think there is always new stuff we can learn :)
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Kim November 22, 2013 at 9:56 am

I know, isn’t she nuts? :) So interesting and awesome to hear how much paleo has helped you! I might have to try making bone broth one of these days–I’m really curious!

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Jade November 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm

i started to listen to podcasts to help me fall asleep – I have such a busy mind it won’t quit at the best of times – and I absolutely fell in love with balanced bites. I’ve been thinking about the paleo lifestyle for a while now except the hubby is such a bread/pasta carb kinda guy and I love my vegetables so I don’t know if it is really something I could continue doing well as I do refuse to create two meals at supper time (I use that rule with my little one). It is always hard to blame ourselves for what has happened to our little ones!

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Katie @ running4cupcakes November 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Interesting discussion. .. As a Mom and a doctor, I totally disagree with the idea that what you eat in pregnancy can affect your childs temperment, and I totally agree with you about the fact that she might not be saying the same things if she had a boy!! I think, as with all diets, there are some good and bad parts of it. As for me, I’ll stick with everything in moderation! :)

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Alex @ Alex Runs For Food November 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

I don’t think there is anything you could have done in pregnancy to prevent masons food allergies. I’m a believer in everything happens for a reason! I do know that they have allergy drops that at some age (not sure how old he has to be) he can take and they will help get rid of his food allergies.

As for paleo… I personally don’t think it’s necessary. I agree with cutting out processed foods! Look at our grandparents and great grandparents.. They cooked at home. Homemade bread… I will admit I buy the low carb processed bread but I’ve been thinking lately it is so much better for you to buy the whole wheat or white bakery bread then the processed stuff.
I have no desire to eat like a caveman (that’s the concept of paleo right?) I don’t think cavemen had cod liver oil?! Just a thought. I was curious once and read up about paleo diet and all I thought after the research was that’s a terrible idea!!

I agree with the other comments about eat what makes your body feel better. I feel best when I eat a balanced diet of veggies, fruit, protein and grains!
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Kim November 14, 2013 at 11:28 am

Lol about cavemen not having cod liver oil! I guess maybe if they lived near rivers???

I think the whole “caveman diet” thing is more of a general descriptor/nickname than an actual rule. Like you, I’m not sure if it’s all totally necessary, but I’d like to have a solid opinion either way and be able to back it up with facts/research.

One positive thing that’s come from my son’s food allergies is that it’s kind of forced us to eat healthier. I dropped bread and dairy, among other things, while I was breastfeeding and just haven’t really picked them back up because I got so used to not having them.

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Arsy November 14, 2013 at 10:05 am

Thank you so much for all the kind words! Beautiful Babies is a great read for preparing fora Paleo/traditional diet pregnancy!

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Kim November 14, 2013 at 10:07 am

Thanks Arsy!! I’ll check that out!

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Ali November 14, 2013 at 9:58 am

This is always such a difficult topic because obviously there are really healthy vegan people and really healthy paleo people which are pretty opposite in their views. I do believe that both people have a similarity and that is that they don’t eat processed foods (mostly). I think the preservatives, additives, chemicals, sugar, etc. is what makes food unhealthy. I think everyone’s body is very different and some people feel better eating more meat than others. Jillian Michaels has said that she’s attempted to eat vegan and she didn’t feel good. Some vegan people hate the way they feel eating meat. I think it’s an individual preference on what makes you feel the best. There are all these superfoods that people swear by such as cod liver oil, mulberries, chia seeds, flaxseed, etc. They are all healthy, but I don’t think they are the end all of everything. It’s an experiment every person has to have in their life to see what makes them the healthiest and everyone is always evolving I feel. As for your son, there are so many tips and opinions about food allergies beginning in pregnancy. One of the biggest ones I have followed with my son (8 months) is to delay grains until about 1 because babies don’t have the digestive enzymes to process grains until later. Breastfeeding is also a huge proponent in building up the immune system and leading to a healthy gut flora. Other than that, I think there are lots of other possibilities on why certain children get food allergies.
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Kim November 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

So well said Ali!! I think you’re right on, and I think that’s exactly why this is so challenging. There is no obvious right, only “right for you,” which puts the burden on each of our shoulders to do all our own research and discover our own truths. And there’s just so much to know!

The food allergy thing is tricky because the research on it is still too young and spotty. A few years ago everyone was like “do not eat peanuts while pregnant!” and now they’re saying “actually, you should definitely eat peanuts while pregnant.” To me, the big swings in opinion suggest that we just don’t have enough solid research, and/or that effects are being attributed to the wrong causes, people are reading too far into the studies that do exist, etc. I breastfed my son for a year but he already had his allergies on day 1. :(

Good point about super foods not being the end all of everything! In my case, pregnancy just adds a whole extra layer to the fear of missed nutrition opportunities. But I know being fearful and obsessive isn’t a healthy thing either! :)

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Ali November 14, 2013 at 10:49 am

I was so worried about nutrition when I was pregnant too! It’s also a time when a lot of the nutritious foods don’t sound good either, so that’s tricky too. I look back at my pregnancy and I know there were definitely things I could have done better, but I did the best I could at that time. I heard the whole no eating peanuts thing while you’re pregnant too and I asked my dr. and he said that was not true. There are so many misconceptions out there and I agree, it’s because we just don’t know. Have you heard of NAET allergy elimination? That could help.
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Kim November 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

Yes! I’m super interested in NAET. Skeptical, but interested. :)

So true that food aversions during pregnancy make everything that much harder! I couldn’t be in the same room with chicken for months, and all veggies sounded horrible!

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danielle November 14, 2013 at 9:08 am

I do CrossFit, which is a community known for its semi-obsessive paleo following. I just don’t perform well when I eat that way, so it is not something I personally choose to do. I think that nutrition and wellness is always going to be an evolving field…so being able to learn “everything” about it seems a bit far fetched :)

I also have had (and still have a few) pretty serious food allergies (anything from severe Linda Blair-esque vomiting to anaphylaxis reactions). When I was 12, I went in for my annual screening and reacted so badly that I needed to be intubated. The good news is that as I have gotten older, the amount of allergies I have has rapidly decreased!! I can now eat eggs and dairy. I also developed a few new allergies (or perhaps just sensitivities?) during each pregnancy, which disappeared soon after giving birth. Hormones are a funny beast. Hopefully your son’s allergies wane over time, too!

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Kim November 14, 2013 at 9:17 am

SO interesting about picking up sensitivities during pregnancy!!! I’ve never heard of that, or even considered that food allergies could be related to hormones. Now I have another thing to research, haha!

That is comforting to hear that some of your allergies went away. I know that happens a lot, but it’s just hard for me to sit and be patient and do nothing. :) Probably a good opportunity for me to learn that lesson!

Do your kids have any allergies?

Thanks for commenting, Danielle! So helpful to hear others’ experiences.

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danielle November 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

So far, none that we know of! My oldest is only 21 months, though. He has not reacted to anything we have fed him. Though, to be fair, we haven’t given him any of my big reactors like shellfish or wine, haha.

My six month has shown some sensitivity to bananas, so we will probably avoid the other latex-fruits like avocados, kiwi and mango for a while.

While pregnant, both times, I became super sensitive to anything with milk proteins or gelatin in it. Really strange! My doctor said it is fairly normal, particularly the milk allergy/sensitivity.

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Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome November 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

I love the Balanced Bite’s Podcast! You should also check out Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness Podcast, and Underground Wellness. My top three favorites for sure! There are a few books I can recommend even though I’m sure you’ve got plenty to read with your school stuff :-) The Paleo Coach, Everyday Paleo (cookbook but has great beginners information), The Paleo Solution and Practical Paleo are all great. Also, check out The Wellness Mama blog. SO MUCH information :-)
I have learned so much and feel SOOO much better in general since beginning to eat a more paleo based diet back in January. I still have a lot more to learn and I haven’t quite jumped fully on board (liver, bone broth…) but have started adding in some grass-fed beef and I haven’t eaten that in well over 10 years! I will say that I LOVE the Paleo community and that it’s more about eating to be healthy rather than eating to lose weight or to look good.
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Kim November 14, 2013 at 9:11 am

I was just listening to Underground Wellness this morning! That’s a new one for me too. I haven’t checked out Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness, but definitely will now. I agree about the feel of the community. I think what’s most attractive about Paleo, for me–the fact that everyone’s primarily focused on eating REAL.

One point of confusion for me is that I know there are all these super nutrient-dense foods out there, that can give me loads of XYZ nutrients, but at what point would I be getting more than I need? I feel like our tendency as a society is to hear “you need lots of X vitamin” as “I need MORE of that!” and maybe that’s not always the case? Anyway, just something I wonder about! :)

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Marissa @ Where I Need to Be November 14, 2013 at 7:06 am

None of these ways of eating are exclusively Paleo. Other cultures have been eating this way for years and yes things like separating the yolk from the egg white or drinking pasteurized fat free (aka overly processed milk) are concepts that food manufacturers have come up with. The popularity ofPaleo is bringing them to the forefront. I don’t follow a Paleo diet (I like and need my whole grains in moderation and I don’t eat meat). I also don’t drink milk. My point is that being the healthiest you can be is about finding what works for you and incorporating those concepts into your life. Take what’s best and leave the rest. If you’re hungry for nutrition knowledge I highly highly recommend the institute of integrated nutrition. It’s where I went to school. They teach every dietary theory to expose you to all of the knowledge and give you a well-rounded education then you make decisions about what resonates with you from a place of feeling informed. You’ll also learn a lot about food allergies too! Not a sales pitch at all but something to look into if you’re interested in learning more about nutrition from a holistic approach :)

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Kim November 14, 2013 at 8:33 am

Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve heard of that school and would love to do something like that someday. Right now, it doesn’t make sense for me financially, so I’m stuck with whatever free resources I can dig up. :) Let me know if you have favorite books/sites!

Totally agree about finding what’s right for you. It’s just that in order to effectively do that, you have to know all of your options :) (and also ideally to have tried them out). Even though I feel pretty healthy, I’m always open to the possibility that there are things out there that could make me feel even better. I doubt I’ll ever go full Paleo, but I’d just like to be more knowledgeable about it, and maybe try out a few of those new-to-me foods like bone broth.

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Ashley @ Power, Love, and Self Discipline November 14, 2013 at 6:59 am

I follow paleo, but I do not eat liver, the high amounts of fat (bacon!) and red meat. I do eat bone broth
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Kim November 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

Bone broth is one thing I’d definitely like to learn more about. Have you blogged about it at all? I’m also really curious about cod liver oil. I know I wouldn’t be able to dive into all the high fat eating either…some fat is great, but bacon just crushes my digestive system. :)

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Ashley @ Power, Love, and Self-Discipline November 14, 2013 at 8:27 am

No, I haven’t blogged on it. I just started blogging last week :) But thanks for the idea, maybe I will. I actually need to order some more bones. I can’t get grass-fed bones at my Whole Foods so I have to order them online. Instead of the bacon emphasis, I try to get my healthy fats from avocado, olive oil, nuts, and coconut oil.
There is a lot of really interesting info and theories on allergies out there. I encourage you to keep researching. It is amazing the world that will open up to you. Our world is becoming more and more toxic, causing more and more illnesses at earlier ages.
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Kim November 14, 2013 at 8:41 am

Agreed. What’s most frustrating to me about food allergies is that I feel like we already know how to cure them, and it’s being done all over the place, but the research is probably a good 10-15 years from real world use. As for what’s causing them, I’ve read a lot of theories too but none of them seem to apply to our situation.

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